Loss and Remembrance


“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” -Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V

2015 feels like it has been a year of losses for me. There have been huge losses: the loss of my dad, whom I loved very much, and of course to a lesser degree, the loss of my job, which I had worked hard to attain. And from these significant losses a myriad of other losses surfaced. I lost friends, family, and a degree of my personal power and confidence. It has been a year of relentless hammering where nothing seems to have worked out for the better.
In the advent of working through hardship, I came to see that I was thinking of loss and ending as synonymous. After all, when we lose a person in our everyday lives, a job and a workplace we spent many hours a week in, or the close connection with a friend, it is the end of those particular circumstances. They will not happen again, at least not in the same way. But I came to realize that loss is not an ending, not if that which we lost was real and important to us. In other words, to experience all the dimensions of loss is to acknowledge the durability of a bond that transcends an end. Loss is a transition; we keep memory, and memory means that there is no real loss because the deep, important aspects of a person or a role or an experience will never be lost to us. Without the gift of memory, we would not even feel the loss of a person, since we would have no connection to them and thus could not feel their absence. My father’s physical presence is gone, but a thousand memories of him in my life actually ensure that he lives on.
Loss in this sense becomes an irony: we mourn absence only because we are drawn to the power of that bond, and the sudden thrust of those lost relationships makes the power of that bond richer and more meaningful.
Over the last month, it has been difficult to handle the barrage of memories that come from photographs and eulogies and family remembrances, but it has also reminded me, again, of how much I have been given, especially by my father, and what his legacy is in my life. As someone who comes from a long lineage of stoic Yankees, who do not show their emotions, happy or sad, I have resisted the urge to curl up like a child and remove myself from the world. I have tried to keep a normal, public face to the world. But perhaps we need to acknowledge and even honor loss—and gorge ourselves more than usual in memory—and allow it its due before we move back into the regular world. And perhaps then we can even joyfully embrace the change and transition that come from loss as the gifts they can ultimately be.

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